Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don"t stop till you get enough

You didn't think you were going to get away so easy did you. Of course there was going to be a blog on Michael, how could there not be. Michael Jackson was the defining voice of my generation. Like Elvis in the fifties, the Beatles in the sixties, MJ was the eighties. Watching the media hysteria unfold in the wake of his passing has been close to that when Princess Diana died in 1997. Everybody is clamouring for the inside story, every piece of his life is being picked over, again and again. His weirdness, his popularity, all the allegations, his spending, his life still under the microscope as it had been for his whole life. If you were in any doubt as to his popularity, his death caused the internet to overload, Google to freeze and YouTube to crash.

It is apparent looking at the mounds of footage being aired, that Michael Jackson, for all his money and fame, was a profoundly sad, lonely individual. As with the J.M. Barrie character Peter Pan, here is a man who never grew up. Put on stage at five by his ambitious father, it was the beginning of a life where he was constantly exploited by the people around him. If you look at his behaviour he wavers between boy and man, as though knowing he was supposed to act like a "grown up" but not quite knowing what it meant. And how could he, he's been "handled" all his life by various minders. If you look past the weirdness though, you will come to appreciate the consummate performer and know that the like will never pass this way again.

It was 1979, Off the Wall was released, we all knew who MJ was, he and his brothers were famous as the Jackson Five but this was something else. Off the Wall rapidly became the most played album at parties, school bazaars and the like. Long before YouTube, iPods and even MTV which did not make it's debut until three years later; CD's were still in their infancy and you bought vinyl which was by no means cheap. One of the guys in the class above mine had it and made his friends really happy ripping copies onto cassettes. We were pirates even then. It was my first year in high school, there are still a lot of good memories of that album and in case you hadn't guessed, Don't Stop till You Get Enough is one of my favourite songs of all time.

In those days Michael Jackson was still a black guy with an afro, but you know, it didn't matter everyone loved his music regardless of colour, class or geographic location. Much has been written by people infinitely more qualified than me about his talent, dynamism as a performer etc. , for my generation, he was a good time. As time wore on, his fame grew with the release of Thriller and then Bad. He was the face of the MTV generation, he pioneered the artform of music videos and his quickly became legends, short films using real directors, elaborate sets and story lines. Sure he was somewhat weird. In hindsight it can be seen that he was mentally ill but who wouldn't be under all that scrutiny. The pressure to top yourself over and over again. Think about it. Living in a glass bowl cannot be fun. His eccentricities became more and more pronounced, the chimp, his skin colour, he rapidly degenerated into a caricature, parodied mercilessly even as people wanted to be seen with him. The allegations of sexual abuse were the final straw and his popularity waned. Ironically, the very people who pilloried him were the people who did not question why an adult would blithely leave their children for unsupervised sleepovers with a grown man. MJ was bewildered by his treatment, he couldn't tell what he had done wrong but really had he? The doubt exists today, was it all a scam to get his money?

Admittedly I was a Prince fan, that weirdness more compatible with my own sensibilities, but the magic of MJ was undeniable and I confess you will find the music is in my iTunes library; a couple of nights ago while reminiscing several of us found out that we could do the Thriller dance. It amazing how many people talking about him, everywhere you went this weekend people had an MJ story irrespective of age, my friends kids who weren't even born in his heyday were crying having discovered him all over again twenty something years later. Grannies were talking about seeing him perform as a child at the Queen's Park Savannah and I have a memory of my mother singing along to Billie Jean before she died. He touched many lives with his work and gave many people a lot of happiness. And for that alone, Michael Jackson will be remembered fondly for a long, long time. Go listen to Man in the Mirror and ask yourself how you want to make a change.


Gabriela said...

I guess no one can possibly understand what is like to grow, as you say, living in a glass bowl.
Let's not judge him. Let's not try to understand him. Let's just enjoy his timeless talent and his endless art.

Wuzdescene said...

Good one Wallah ....

I am a huge JACKSONS fan .... Michael and Janet!

Coffedude said...

MJ was undeniably a huge part of my life - particulalry in the 80's. Human Nature is one of the most beautiful songs ever (thanks to the band Toto who wrote and played on it).

I must agree with Coffee though ....Prince was and is more my speed.


Coyote Ugly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coyote Ugly said...

I really enjoyed your post like you I grew up with MJ he was 7 when I was born and I can't remember a time in my life without his music as a backdrop. I can tell you what was going on in my life, who I was dating, who I fancied and where we went on holidays by what song was out at the time. For me he was the last of my major musical icons to leave this world and I admit I felt somewhat bereft and have shed tears. Musically, artistically and visually we have lost one of the biggest talents the world has seen and we will never see anyone else even come close to him. Sadly he was also a product of his upbringing and that is so sad.
Regardless of what anyone says or thinks about him either rightly or wrongly I will miss him and have my own opinions on his life as I am sure most everyone else does but I am choosing to not read any of articles picking his life apart. I am choosing to remember him for the part his music and videos have played in my life and for the sheer pleasure his music has bought me all my life.